I woke up, once again this morning, with no real rest had the night before. For whatever reason, I have been waking up around 3:00am or 3:30 a.m., and having a very difficult time getting back to sleep. There are still things that linger in my mind about Carol and my future without her. I practice “letting go” and “surrendering” to what, at times, can be very debilitating anxiety, worry, and fear. However, I am learning to have an awareness of these feelings when they happen and just notice them, trying not to change them or lessen them, but simply to notice and breathe into them. I often think of these feelings as the feelings my “little girl” would have felt, so many years ago, when I survived the death of my older brother at thirteen, by suicide, and the death of my uncle only a year before my brother’s death, in a horrific car accident. I was taught, even at that early age, that I “had to be strong” and “move on” but that is no easy feat when you are seven and eight years old.
Certainly, the death of my partner has brought these feelings all up again so that, I believe, my adult self can heal them, and move forward with my life, spiritually stronger and in more faith than I ever have had been before. I’ve grown accustomed to having these sleepless nights from time to time and I simply go about my morning the same way I would any morning. I start out with meditation and a spiritual routine of reading the authors of books that inspire, give me perspective, and uplift my spirits. And, when that is done, I make my way to the computer to start my day. However, today, when I came across a headline and link on CNN: “Jimmy Kimmel’s emotional reveal. His newborn son’s health scare. Watch him tell son’s story and discuss issues with health care”, like millions of American’s I clicked it. The image of his newborn son lying on his chest while both were sleeping was so beautiful and soothing. However, the click took me to the page where his YouTube video of his monologue was embedded, and on the upper right corner it said “Jimmy Kimmel Reveals Details of His Son’s Birth & Heart Disease”.
I’m sure many of you know Carol, my late partner, who died on April 27th, 2016, due to complications from her own heart surgery. So, naturally, I was very intrigued and read some of the article before I even clicked on to play his monologue. I saw the words “heart condition” and “pulmonary valve” and then the phrase “underwent open-heart surgery at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles”. I clicked that play button as fast as I could, annoyed at seeing an ad played before the actual video, but I waited and what I quickly saw in the eyes of Mr. Kimmel was the horror, pain, and fear I lived through those two weeks at USC Keck Medical Center, where Carol underwent her surgery, prior to her passing. When he spoke of his “room being flooded with doctors and machines” it brought back so many terrifying moments that I had to live through. He went on to immediately say “It’s a terrifying thing,” as his voice was quivering, trying to get through the story that I knew, all to well, just what he was going through. I was riveted, as I never heard anyone speak, on such a national level, as to what I, too, felt just over a year ago. I kept listening, waiting for him to say who that surgeon was, but deep down I think I knew, as my own eyes started to well up with tears. Then, he said it. Mr. Kimmel, you said the name of the man who I hated for over a year. A man who I felt let the life of my sweet Carol slip away, never to return to me, or any of the people she loved and loved her back so deeply. You said, “There’s a world renowned cardiac surgeon, who is on all accounts a genius, his name is Dr. Vaughn Starnes.” The welling in my eyes turned into tears and I instantly burst into tears and cried as I continued listening to your story where I heard you say that they didn’t fix everything but this particular surgery was a success. I cried even harder because this was something that Dr. Starnes could not do for Carol but I also realized that I was crying because your story was the gift of clarity I have been praying for. There were so many complications with Carol and her surgery; I never got the straight answers as to what went wrong and why she ultimately got to the point where she passed away. I had so many questions. I mean, how could this “world renowned surgeon” let her die?
I learned to let these questions go if I ever were to have some peace in my life but it has not been easy. I’ve learned to let that go too and to surrender to the fact that sometimes things happen for a reason that is beyond me.
However, after you said Dr. Starnes name and you continued to thank him and the other doctors and health care workers that helped your baby to survive, I could feel something lifting. I could breath that much deeper and I felt lighter. Mr. Kimmel, in that moment all of my doubts about Dr. Starnes and that weight on my shoulders, lifted. I feel that my partner wanted me to hear you today. And, in a weird way, although I wish nothing ill for your baby, had you not had this experience and told your audience, I would have never heard you. I still would have these doubts and the heaviness that surrounded me for over a year. When you showed that cute little cherub of a boy my heart was full with the miracle of life and the thought occurred to me that, indeed, many lives are saved and, in the same breath, some are not. I wonder if Dr. Starnes remembers Carol – he did say that her case was the most terrible case he had and the one that would haunt him. And, to have little William born on April 21, Carol pass on the 27th, just a year before, and to have performed surgery on him on May 1st, and it be a wonderful success – to see the love and relief in your eyes, again – what a gift that you may never know you have given me.
You see, this has come full circle for me, and that miracle that I ask God to help me see everyday? Ask him to help me KNOW when it happens? Well, it has just happened. And, I have you to thank Mr. Kimmel. I do also know that this is something that Carol wanted me to know – “a sign”, if you will, that indeed, she had the best surgeon around perform on her but that, sometimes, terrible things do happen and they are not always what we want. However, most of the time, WONDERFUL things happen.
My thoughts and prayers go out to you and your family Mr. Kimmel, that little William grows up to be healthy, vibrant, and strong.